The Making of a Restaurant

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Commenting on one of Sandy's posts, Lucia recoils at the RoseAngelis menu. "Pasta with chicken? With balsamic vinegar! Gosh, I'm thinking you guys down there still need some real italian cooking!" Sounds like Lucia would be a good candidate for the Italian taste police. (Indeed, happy is the thought of being deputized as a taste cop. "You, there! With the striped polo shirt on top of the green turtleneck! Thirty lashes!")

I think adopting an ethnic cuisine would be dicey, as I've noted. Without being natives, we'd be pretenders writ large and quickly exposed as food frauds. That said, there are thousands of successful Italian restaurants in America and, as I far as I know, very few could be considered authentic. I know of none within my means. It goes beyond knowing the difference between true Italian and spaghetti-and-meatballs Italian. It's cultural: Americans don't have the patience for primi and secondi. We don't go for courses unless it's a 28-course, one-teaspoon-of-food-at-a-time extravaganza from someone like Charlie Trotter.

Oh, what I'd give for a true Tuscan dinner under $20. (I'd probably give $25!)

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Yet another menu item: Game hen, cooked in lava.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Burrito Beach is having a promotion in which local celebri-chefs have donated original burrito recipes, proceeds from which are given to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. It's excellent marketing (I'd never heard of the place until I heard about the promotion) and, assuming they're just adding a quarter or so to each burrito, costs them nothing. Oh, yeah -- and it helps a good cause.

As for the burritos? Not bad. As far as corp-urritos go, they're definitely a step up from Chipotle (and locally owned, so not that corporate).

It's straight from Ben & Jerry's playbook, but we, too, should consider letting a special menu item raise money for our favorite non-profit. (Of course, I have a feeling that our favorite non-profit will be "us," but that's beside the point.)
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Monday, August 19, 2002

My mom called me a few minutes ago, gushing over a recent dinner at RoseAngelis. "Oh, Sandy, you'd absolutely love this place! It's so cozy, and the portions are huge, and the prices are half what you'd expect to pay." Sure sounded good to me. I told her I'd put it on my list.

Then I loaded up RoseAngelis' website. In addition to all the vital information you'd look for on a restaurant's site -- menu, reviews, contact info -- they have a list of statistics in honor of their 10 years in business. It's a brilliant execution of a concept I proposed a while ago.

Most numbers seem mind-bogglingly huge until you break them down into a day-by-day statistic. (55,000 gallons of soup [!] works out to about 80 bowls per day.) Even though I'm sure it's simply a compilation of 10 years' worth of sales data, I'd like to imagine that the numbers were tallied order by order -- that there are 51,400 individual ticks on the wall next to the pizza station.

Second-most impressive stat: 127 engagements in 10 years. That works out to about one per month. It says a hell of a lot about your restaurant if people consistantly choose it as a setting to propose. (Unless, of course, it's actually one guy, trying and failing 127 times.)

Most impressive stat: six employees who've been with the restaurant since the beginning. It's hard enough imagining we'll be successful enough to keep the two of us employed for 10 years, much less four others. We should be so lucky.

Sunday, August 18, 2002

John Kass takes a look at ways to get diners to wash their hands. He's found a device that, triggered by the sound of a toilet flush, reminds people to lather up. I suppose it's a good idea, though I'd be wary of the cacophony generated by a busy washroom. And why stop at reminders to wash hands? Why not remind them to tip their waitresses and call their mothers, too?

Personally, I think the best solution would include neon signs and klaxons. How about if a customer doesn't wash their hands, we take away their utensils?

I also know that I am more likely to wash my hands if someone else is in the washroom with me. Maybe we have some sort of scarecrow?




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